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Poor Data Threatens Global Conservation Targets

New Brunswick OKs Toxic Waste Facility

Dioxin from Agent Orange Found in Vietnamese Food

Poll: 95 Percent Majority Backs Wind Power

Clean Energy Sought to Replace Coal Power Plants

Soweto Gets a Facelift

AmeriScan: August 23, 2002 AmeriScan: August 23, 2002

* * *

Trade Center Workers Had Respiratory Problems

LAKE SUCCESS, New York, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - Many of the workers who cleared debris from the site of the World Trade Center attack last September 11 reported acute respiratory symptoms, a new health assessment concludes.

Investigators from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health believe the respiratory problems may be associated with exposure to dust and airborne contaminants at Ground Zero.

Since the investigators only looked at short term health effects, they said more research is needed to determine if there is any long term health risk to the workers. The assessment was conducted in collaboration with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the findings were presented Thursday at a meeting for members of Teamsters Local 282 in Lake Success.

"Many of the workers we assessed reported coughing, wheezing, and sore throats while working at Ground Zero. These symptoms seemed to increase the longer they worked at the site," explained Dr. Alison Geyh, chief investigator and assistant professor of environmental health sciences. "The good news is that we did not find unhealthy levels of asbestos, but we don't know what the long term health risks may be regarding exposure to other airborne contaminants at the site."

The exposure and health assessment was conducted between October 2001 and April 2002. The investigators examined the workers' airborne exposures to asbestos, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.

In October, airborne contaminants were measured at numerous locations at Ground Zero and on truck drivers who hauled wreckage away from the site. The respiratory health of the truck drivers and other debris removal workers was assessed two months later, when a respiratory health questionnaire was administered to the workers, and lung function was measured using spirometry.

Additional airborne contaminant measurements were collected in April and compared to the data gathered in October.

The air monitoring effort detected small amounts of asbestos. Investigators say exposures were low and did not exceed health exposure guidelines.

"Low level exposures to asbestos, occurring for a short period of time relative to a working lifetime, suggest that these truck drivers are unlikely to be at a significant increased risk of asbestos related disease," said Dr. Patrick Breysse, an investigator on the project and professor of environmental health sciences.

Airborne particulate matter measured at Ground Zero was variable in both composition and size, and depended on conditions at the site, such as how aggressively the fires were burning, how actively the debris was being removed, and how thoroughly dust suppression measures were being carried out.

Responses to the questionnaire indicate that respiratory symptoms, such as sore throat, coughing and wheezing, were widespread among workers at the site. On average, the more days worked, the more frequent and severe the symptoms were.

Lung function results based on spirometric measurement did not indicate any extensive impairment among the workers surveyed.

"Now we are in the process of tracking this group of workers into the future, to document any potential changes in health status," said Julie Herbstman, a member of the investigation team.

In May, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences awarded the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health a grant to continue assessing the health of workers involved in the cleanup of the World Trade Center site. Over the next year, Dr. Geyh and her colleagues will develop a registry of the estimated 6,000 to 7,000 workers involved in removing and transporting debris from Ground Zero. The registry will be used for future studies to assess the health of these workers.

* * *

Uranium Enrichment Plants Tighten Security

WASHINGTON, DC, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ordered additional security measures at two plants that make enriched uranium fuel for nuclear reactors.

On Thursday, the agency issued a directive covering the BWX Technologies, Inc. plant in Lynchburg, Virginia and the Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin, Tennessee, ordering the plants to implement interim security measures appropriate "for the current threat environment."

The orders formalize a series of security measures that NRC licensees have taken in response to NRC advisories, or on their own, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Additional security enhancements suggested by the NRC's ongoing comprehensive security review are also spelled out in the orders.

Although most details of the new measures are considered sensitive, and have not been made public, the orders include requirements for increased patrols, augmented security forces, additional security posts, installation of additional physical barriers, vehicle checks at greater standoff distances, enhanced coordination with law enforcement and military authorities, and more restricted site access controls.

The plants' operators are required to provide the NRC with a schedule within 20 days for achieving full compliance with the new orders. The security measures will remain in effect until the NRC determines that the threat level has diminished, or that other changes are needed as a result of the NRC's security program reevaluation.

A copy of the non-sensitive portion of the orders is available at:, under Orders.

* * *

$80 Million Funds U.S./Mexico Water Conservation

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - The North American Development Bank (NADB) has authorized the creation of an $80 million Water Conservation Fund for financing water conservation projects on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Water Conservation Fund, which in part is expected to help finance infrastructure improvement projects for irrigation districts impacting the Rio Grande, will be capitalized with a portion of the NADB's retained earnings. Funds will be distributed equally for projects on both sides of the border.

Anticipating increased demand for loans, the NADB board made an additional $50 million in capital available for lending under the NADB's Low Interest Rate Lending Facility (LIRF). Under this program, border communities have access to NADB loans at lower than market interest rates. In addition to the funding increase, the Board also authorized the use of low interest rate loans for funding of water conservation projects.

"With these actions the governments of Mexico and the United States, through the NADB, are seeking to promote a more efficient use of resources in the border region, while at the same time contributing to the fulfillment of the water treaty between the two countries," said Dr. Agustín Carstens, Mexico's under secretary of finance and public credit and co-chair of the NADB Board.

At their meeting on Wednesday, the NADB board approved three loans under the LIRF totaling $11.3 million, and a $500,000 grant from its Solid Waste Environmental Program (SWEP). The communities receiving loans are Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, for a municipal wastewater project; San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, for a sanitary landfill project; and the El Paso County Water Control and Improvements District No. 4 in Fabens, Texas, for water and wastewater system improvements. The SWEP grant will go to the San Luis project.

"The reforms, the provision of grants for water conservation and the doubling of the size of the Low Interest Rate Lending Facility will make a real difference for people, communities and farms on our border," said John Taylor, under secretary at the Treasury Department and chair of the NADB board.

The NADB Board also implemented improvements to the NADB's technical assistance programs, including turning the Solid Waste Project Development Program (SWPD) into the Project Development Program, making it available to all sectors in which the bank operates.

The North American Development Bank, created under the auspices of NAFTA, is a financial institution established and funded in equal parts by the United States and Mexico to finance environmental infrastructure projects along their common border.

In June, the United States and Mexico reached an agreement to resolve water problems along the border. As part of the agreement, the Bush administration and the administration of President Vicente Fox in Mexico pledged to ensure more efficient use of water in the Rio Grande basin, in part through the creation of a binational financial package dedicated to water conservation initiatives.

"Today, the NADB Board made substantial progress in fulfilling the goals of President Bush and President Fox," said Taylor.

* * *

South Dakota Power Plant Slashes Emissions

MILBANK, South Dakota, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - The Big Stone Power Plant in South Dakota could soon have the lowest emissions of fine particles of any coal burning power plant in the world.

A cooperative agreement signed by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Otter Tail Power Company paves the way for installation of a new type of pollution control device on the 450 megawatt Big Stone plant in Milbank. When it begins operating this fall, the first of its kind device is expected to remove more than 99.99 percent of the microscopic particulate matter released when coal burns - almost eliminating a pollutant that contributes to haze and can cause respiratory problems.

If the device works as planned, the 27 year old Big Stone Power Plant will reduce emissions of airborne particles to less than seven one-thousandths of a pound per million British Thermal Unit - or 0.007 pounds per million Btu - more than four times cleaner than required by current clean air laws. Clean air standards for the region limit particulate emissions to no more than three one-hundredths of a pound per million Btu - or 0.03 pounds per million Btu.

power plant

South Dakota's Big Stone Plant will soon get an environmental upgrade that will almost eliminate particulate emissions. (Photo courtesy Otter Tail Power Company)
The $13.4 million project is one of eight that the DOE selected last October in a program called the "Power Plant Improvement Initiative." One of the original projects has since dropped out of the program.

The Otter Tail project is the first to have completed negotiations with the government and received approval to proceed. The Department will finance $6.5 million of the project's total cost, while the Otter Tail Power Company and the collector's developer, W. L. Gore & Associates, will fund the balance.

The demonstration of the particulate collector comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reevaluating air quality standards for particulate matter. The EPA is to decide later this year if regulations should be tightened or otherwise modified. If more restrictive standards are imposed, demand for super clean pollution control systems like the one to be demonstrated at the Big Stone power plant could skyrocket.

W.L. Gore & Associates is licensed to market the technology to the utility industry and plans to sell it under the name "Advanced HybridTM Filter." Under the government's cost sharing agreement, data on the advanced technology will be collected over the next two years. After that the system will continue to operate as a permanent part of the Big Stone Power Plant.

The Power Plant Improvement Initiative was launched last year in the aftermath of a series of brownouts and blackouts that plagued major regions of the country. With coal accounting for more than half the nation's electricity, the initiative targeted new technologies that could help coal plants improve their environmental performance, boost their output, and avoid premature shutdowns that could worsen the nation's power problems.

* * *

Antarctic Sea Ice Has Increased

WASHINGTON, DC, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - Satellite records of sea ice around Antarctica show that the southern hemisphere ice cover has increased since the late 1970s, at the same time that Arctic sea ice has declined.

Continued decreases or increases could have substantial impacts on polar climates, because sea ice spreads over a vast area, reflects solar radiation away from the Earth's surface, and insulates the oceans from the atmosphere.

In a study just published in the "Annals of Glaciology," Claire Parkinson of the Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed the length of the sea ice season throughout the Southern Ocean to obtain trends in sea ice coverage.

Parkinson examined 21 years (1979-1999) of Antarctic sea ice satellite records and discovered that, on average, the area where southern sea ice seasons have lengthened by at least one day per year is about twice as large as the area where sea ice seasons have shortened by at least one day per year. One day per year equals three weeks over the 21-year period.

"You can see with this dataset that what is happening in the Antarctic is not what would be expected from a straightforward global warming scenario, but a much more complicated set of events," Parkinson said.

The length of the sea ice season in any particular region or area refers to the number of days per year when at least 15 percent of that area is covered by sea ice. Some areas close to the Antarctic continent have sea ice all year long, but a much larger region of the Southern Ocean has sea ice for a smaller portion of the year, and in those regions the length of the sea ice season can vary from one year to another.

Parkinson found that about 5.6 million square kilometers (2.16 million square miles) of the Antarctic showed a lengthening of the sea ice season by at least one day per year over the study period. The area with sea ice seasons shortening by at least one day per year was three million square kilometers (1.16 million square miles).

The Ross Sea, on average, had its sea ice seasons getting longer, while most of the Amundsen Sea and almost the entire Bellingshausen Sea had their sea ice seasons getting shorter.

"The Antarctic sea ice changes match up well with regional temperature changes," Parkinson said. "The one region in the Antarctic where the temperature records have shown prominent warming over this period is the Antarctic Peninsula, and indeed it's immediately to the west and east of the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Bellingshausen/Amundsen and western Weddell seas, respectively, that the sea ice seasons have been shortening rather than lengthening."

The Arctic also shows a mixed pattern of sea ice trends over the 1979-1999 period, but in contrast to the Antarctic, the area with shortening seasons in the Arctic is far greater than the area with lengthening seasons. The Arctic patterns suggest some connections with major oscillations in large scale atmospheric pressures, called the Arctic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation, and it is possible the ice covers of both hemispheres could be influenced by oscillations that are still not identified, Parkinson said.

* * *

Computers Model Ocean Storage of CO2

LIVERMORE, California, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - The depth of an injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the deep ocean is a good predictor of how effective that location is at sequestering carbon away from the atmosphere, say researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Injection of CO2 into the deep ocean has been proposed as a way to slow the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, one of the causes of global warming. In the direct injection scenario, CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels is injected into the ocean interior.

In a study published this week in the journal "Geophysical Research Letters," Ken Caldeira and Philip Duffy of the Climate and Carbon Cycle Modeling Group and Michael Wickett of the Center for Applied Scientific Computing, all at Livermore, show that the depth, rather than radiocarbon, is a better predictor of the effectiveness of CO2 injection.

The researchers studied both radiocarbon dating - used to date items from archeological site - and the depths of injection to determine the effectiveness of direct CO2 injection as a carbon sequestration strategy. They used computer simulations to make their predictions.

"These simulations indicate that the amount of time it takes for a water parcel to return to the ocean surface increases with depth, but is not related to the amount of time since that parcel was last at the surface," Duffy said.

Injections were simulated at 800 meters, 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters for 100 years near the Bay of Biscay, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Tokyo, Jakarta and Bombay.

The models showed that injection at 3,000 meters is quite effective at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere for several centuries while injections at shallower depths are less effective. In general, injections into the Pacific Ocean (San Francisco and Tokyo) were more effective than injection at the same depth in the Atlantic Ocean (New York City, Rio de Janeiro and the Bay of Biscay).

"We showed that radiocarbon content alone at a given location in the deep ocean is a poor predictor of how effective CO2 injection at that location is at sequestering carbon away from the atmosphere," Caldeira said. "In contrast, our models showed that the depth of injection alone is a good predictor of the effectiveness of the CO2 injection."

Researchers have yet to determine the effects of direct injection on marine life. Many biologists oppose experimenting with CO2 injection until scientists know more about whether the projects will harm the marine ecosystem.

* * *

New York to Buy More Wind Energy

ALBANY, New York, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - The New York Power Authority (NYPA) plans to buy up to 50,000 kilowatts (kW) of energy from current or new wind powered projects in New York State.

"Wind power can help to clean the air and strengthen our economy through increased reliance on indigenous, renewable energy resources," said Governor George Pataki. "The New York Power Authority initiative will play an important role in our efforts to develop environmentally sensitive and economically beneficial wind power projects in New York State."

The NYPA request for proposals is open to owners or prospective developers of wind powered facilities throughout the state. The agency will solicit bids from potential suppliers of wind generated electricity for periods of 10 or 15 years, beginning January 1, 2005.

In assessing the bids, NYPA will consider the cost of the power; the project's potential to create jobs during construction and operation and through the supply of economical electricity to businesses; and the project's environmental impact.

"Governor Pataki has given a green light to green power in the Empire State with an array of renewable power policy initiatives," said NYPA chair Louis Ciminelli. "This wind power plan is a logical extension of the New York Power Authority's heritage of renewable power projects."

More than 40 years ago, NYPA built hydroelectric projects using the water resources of the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers. In recent years, the agency has deployed solar energy technology and produced electricity from sewage treatment plants and landfill gases.

Each megawatt (1,000 kW) of wind power is estimated to help avoid more than 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

On July 22, Governor Pataki announced that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) had joined with Erie County and a Buffalo environmental firm in a $288,000 study of potential development of wind powered projects along the Erie County shoreline. NYSERDA has helped develop 41,500 kW of wind power in Central New York.

Last year, Pataki issued an executive order requiring state agencies to obtain 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2005 and 20 percent by 2010. The order also encouraged local government and school districts to increase their reliance on renewable sources.

The 2002 State Energy Plan, released in June, calls for increasing the share of renewable energy use in New York State by 50 percent, from the current 10 to 15 percent, by 2020.

* * *

Connecticut Shuts Down 12 Gas Stations

HARTFORD, Connecticut, August 23, 2002 (ENS) - Two Connecticut agencies have taken enforcement actions against 12 gasoline stations in Connecticut that have failed to meet the requirements of the Stage II Vapor Recovery System program.

Since 1993, state regulations have required more than 1,600 gasoline dispensing facilities in Connecticut to install, operate and test control equipment designed to reduce gasoline vapors generated when drivers refuel their vehicles. All facilities were required to install vapor control systems by 1994.

All of the state's gas stations complied with the regulations by installing the necessary vapor control systems. However, to further protect public health, the regulations require gasoline dispensing facilities to test their control systems every five years or upon system modification, whichever happened first.

The Connecticut Departments of Environmental (DEP) and Consumer Protection (DCP) said that just 12 facilities have failed to comply with the regulations, either by testing their systems to demonstrate they are working five years after installation, or entering into a legal agreement with the DEP to perform the testing and pay penalties.

All 12 of the stations cited by DEP and DCP were required to close as a result of their non-compliance. Since that time, 11 stations have signed consent agreements with the DEP which require them to perform the testing and have re-opened.

"Gasoline vapor recovery at the gas pump benefits the public and environment in many ways. The appropriate equipment, once installed, operated, and properly maintained, protects the public from exposure to toxic substances found in gasoline," said DEP commissioner Arthur Rocque.

"In addition, the equipment improves air quality in Connecticut by reducing the release of harmful pollutants which cause smog," Rocque added. "Both Connecticut residents and our environment gain the optimum benefits of this program when all of Connecticut's stations are in compliance."

The Stage II Vapor Recovery System is certified to reduce the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in gasoline vapors by 95 percent. The VOCs contribute to ground level ozone (smog) and are hazardous to human health.

"Fortunately, this group of 12 represents only one percent of the gasoline facilities in the state impacted by Stage II regulations," said Consumer Protection commissioner James Fleming. "Our standards inspectors will continue monitoring stations throughout the State. I am pleased with the overall success of this program that has made Connecticut an even better place in which to live and to work."

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